Idli Sambar

Cuisine: Indian

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 5

The humble sambar is comfort food at its best! Loaded with vegetables, warming spices, and herbs, this quintessential South Indian staple dish is packed with proteins, fibres, and vitamins. It pairs beautifully with fluffy idlis, vada, dosa and even rice.  

  • Toor dal
  • Masoor dal
  • Oil
  • Mustard seeds
  • Shallots
  • Tomato
  • Mangalore cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Green chillies
  • Tamarind
  • Asafoetida
  • Red chilli powder
  • Turmeric powder
  • Sambar powder
  • Curry leaves
  • Coriander leaves
  • Salt

A warming stew that feels like an embrace

  1. Rinse ½ cup each of arhar dal (pigeon pea lentils) and masoor dal (red lentils). Add 2 cups of water and ¼ tsp of turmeric powder in a pressure cooker and cook the dals for 2-3 whistles or till mushy. Mash the cooked dals and set aside.
  2. Add warm water to a small bowl and soak the tamarind for 20 mins. Extract the tamarind pulp and keep aside.
  3. In a small frying pan, heat two tsp oil while keeping the flame low. Add mustard seeds and asafoetida.
  4. Once the seeds crackle, add curry leaves, green chillies, and shallots. Cook for a few minutes.
  5. Add carrots, Mangalore cucumber, and tomato (in this order), cover the lid and cook for 10 mins.
  6.  Remove the lid, add the sambar powder, salt, and the cooked dals.
  7. Stir well and let it simmer for a few minutes.
  8. Add one cup of water to adjust the consistency. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Chef Tip: A subtle inclusion of jaggery to add a dash of sweetness to the sambar. You can also add your choice of vegetables such as pumpkin, eggplant, okras, radish, moringa or yam as per your preference.  

The goodness of vegetables and the warmth of fragrant spices to please your palate… that’s sambar for you. Try this perfect recipe on a cold winter day for you and your family. 

Quick Bites

Fun Fact

• Legend has it that Maratha ruler Shivaji Maharaj’s son Sambhaji once attempted to make dal (a dish made with lentils and split pulses) for himself as his head chef was away. He added tamarind to the age-old mixture of dal.

• However, tamarind was never used in a dal. He liked his own new concoction and named it as “Sambar” after his name Sambhaji.

Historical Fact

• A precursor of the modern idli is mentioned in several ancient Indian works. Vaddharadhane, a 920 CE Kannada Language work by Shivakotiacharya mentions "iddalige", prepared only from a black gram batter.

• In Karnataka, the Idli in 1235 CE is described as being 'light, like coins of high value', which is not suggestive of a rice base. The recipe mentioned in these ancient Indian works leaves out three key aspects of the modern idli recipe: the use of rice (not just black gram), the long fermentation of the mix, and the steaming for fluffiness.

Nutrition Fact

• One cup of sambar with 3 idlis (a normal serving) contains 304 calories of which 18 are from fat.

• To break it down further, it consists of 2g fat, 427mg sodium, 651mg potassium, 61g carbohydrates, and 12g protein.